Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans researcher admits that migratory sea mammals, particularly ringed seals and beluga, continue to be poisoned by mercury at increasing levels from unknown sources. The benefits of Inuit food: caribou, whale (beluga) or ring seals, rich in vitamins, nutrition and low in oil are greater than the health risks.

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Dramatic images from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder reveal disturbing changes to the homelands of circumpolar Inuit. Rotten sea ice prevents access to resources. The amount of ice loss this year absolutely stunned CU-Boulder senior cryospheric scientist Mark Serreze of NSIDC.

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Sea ice extent continues to decline, and is now at 4.24 million square kilometers (1.63 million square miles), falling yet further below the previous record absolute minimum of 5.32 million square kilometers (2.05 million square miles) that occurred on Se

Key words, tags, folksonomies: environment, science, weather, Nunavut, circumpolar Inuit, Inuit social histories, climate change,

National Snow and Ice Data Center. 2007.

The International Environment Forum shared ethical concerns of economic, social, and humanitarian burdens resulting from climate change. International law and norms, political and economic obligations are being rethought in anticipation of millions of climate change refugees. Panel members argued that moderate, civil religions (Etzioni 2007) can provide the motivation to ethical behaviour that is urgently needed.

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See also

Etzioni, Amitai. 2007a.”The West Needs a Spiritual Surge” >> Amitai Etzioni Notes. March 6, 2007.

Etzioni, Amitai. 2007b. L’Occident aussi a besoin d’un renouveau spirituel.” Le Monde. 7 avril.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Does the West Need a Spiritual Surge?” >> Speechless. May 4.
http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddp3qxmz_228hk8bnj

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2007. “Nanuq of the North II: Animal Rights vs Human Rights.” Speechless. Uploaded January 3, 2007.

Finally in December 2006 Bush blinks, but why now? The Bush administration took advantage of the way in which all eyes turn towards Santa’s North Pole, where big-eyed talking polar bears, reindeer and seals live in harmony, to announce that they would save these creatures from Nanook of the North. Is this for the environment or for votes? See story.

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Nanook (nanuq Inuktitut for polar bear) was the name of the Eskimo hunter captured on film in the first documentary ever produced, Robert Flaherty’s (1922?) Nanook of the North, — still shown in film studies survey courses. Nanook the Stone Age-20the century hunter became an international legend as a lively, humourous and skillful hunter of polar bears, seals and white fox who tried to bite into the vinyl record Flaherty had brought with him. (The real “Nanook” died of tuberculosis as did countless Inuit from small communities ravaged by one of the worst epidemic’s of tuberculosis on the planet.)

On August 13, 1942 in Walt Disney studios’ canonical animated film Bambi it was revealed that many animals with cute eyes could actually talk and therefore shared human values. Nanook and his kind became the arch enemy of three generations of urban North Americans and Europeans. Hunters were bad. Cute-eyed animals that could talk were good. Today many animals’ lives have been saved from these allegedly cruel hunters by the billion dollar cute-eyed-talking-animals-industry.

The White House has once again come to the rescue of these vulnerable at-risk animals. (There was an entire West Wing episode in which a gift of moose meat was rejected by all staff since it came from a big-eyed-talking-animal. See Ejesiak and Flynn-Burhoe (2005) for more on how the urban debates pitting animal rights against human rights impacted on the Inuit.) Who would ever have suspected that the Bush administration cared so much about the environment that they would urge an end to the polar bear hunt, already a rare phenomenon to many Inuit since their own quotas protected them?

When I lived in the north the danger for polar bears did not reside in the hearts of hunters. Nanuq the polar bear who could not talk was starving. He hung out around hamlets like Churchill, Baker Lake or Iqaluit, looking for garbage since this natural habitat was unpredicatable as the climate changed. Some people even insisted that there was no danger from the polar bear who had wandered into town since he was ’skinny.’ That did not reassure me! I would have preferred to know that he was fat, fluffly and well-fed. Polar bears die from exhaustion trying to swim along their regular hunting routes as ice floes they used to be able to depend on melted into thin air literally. They die, not because there are not enough seals but because they need platform ice in the right seasons. That platform ice is disappearing. They die with ugly massive tumours in them developed from eating char, seals and other Arctic prey whose bodies are riddled with southern toxins that have invaded the pristine, vulnerable northern ecosystem. Nanuq is dying a slow painful death. Nanuq is drowning. Although he doesn’t sing he is a canary for us all.

Climate change and southern industrial toxins affect the fragile ecosystem of the Arctic first. The Inuit claimed in 2003,“Global warming is killing us too, say Inuit .”This is why Sheila Watt-Cloutier laid a law suit against the administration of the United States of America. Now the handful of Job-like Inuit who managed to survive the seal hunt fiasco of the 1980s and are still able hunt polar bear, will have yet another barrier put between them and the ecosystem they managed and protected for millennia. When I see Baroque art and read of the Enlightenment, I think Hudson’s Bay and the whalers in the north. It wasn’t the Inuit who caused the mighty leviathan to become endangered. Just how enlightened are we, the great grandchildren of the settlers today? Who is taking care of our Other grandparents?

Since the first wave of Inuit activists flooded the Canadian research landscape fueled by their frustrations with academic Fawlty Towers they morphed intergenerational keen observation of details, habits of memory, oral traditions and determination with astute use of artefacts and archives to produce focused and forceful research. When Sheila Watt-Cloutier representing the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) was acknowledged with two awards in one year for work done to protect the environment, I wondered how many cheered her on.

I don’t cheer so much anymore. I am too overwhelmed, too hopeless to speak. I myself feel toxic, perhaps another pollutant from the south — my name is despair. I don’t want to dampen the enthusiasm of those activists who still have courage to continue. For myself, I feel like the last light of the whale-oil-lit kudlik is Flicktering and there is a blizzard outside.

Footnotes:

From wikipedia entry Sheila Watt-Cloutier

In 2002, Watt-Cloutier was elected[1][4] International Chair of ICC, a position she would hold until 2006[1]. Most recently, her work has emphasized the human face of the impacts of global climate change in the Arctic. In addition to maintaining an active speaking and media outreach schedule, she has launched the world’s first international legal action on climate change. On December 7, 2005, based on the findings of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, which projects that Inuit hunting culture may not survive the loss of sea ice and other changes projected over the coming decades, she filed a petition, along with 62 Inuit Hunters and Elders from communities across Canada and Alaska, to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, alleging that unchecked emissions of greenhouse gases from the United States have violated Inuit cultural and environmental human rights as guaranteed by the 1948 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.[5]

Digitage elements:

Caspar David Friedrich’s (1824) The Sea of Ice
Tujjaat Resolution Island, abandoned, DEW line station DINA Northern Contaminated Sites Program (CSP) web site
My photo of ice floes in Charlottetown harbour, March 2000
A section of my acrylic painting entitled Nukara (2000)

Selected Bibliography

Eilperin, Juliet. (2006). ““U.S. Wants Polar Bears Listed as Threatened.” Washington Post Staff Writer. Wednesday, December 27, 2006; Page A01

Gertz, Emily. 2005. The Snow Must Go On. Inuit fight climate change with human-rights claim against U.S. Grist: Environmental News and Commentary. 26 Jul 2005.

The Guardian. 2003. ““Inuit to launch human rights case against the Bush Administration.”

DEW line contaminated sites in Nunavut.

www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1104241,00….

www.grist.org/news/maindish/2005/07/26/gertz-inuit/index….

This will be updated from EndNote. If you require a specific reference please leave a comment on this page.

Creative Commons Canadian Copyright 2.5 BY-NC-SA.

Benign colonialism for dummies: how to impress OECD while Canada’s First People live in Brazil-like favela. Canadian Public Policy research has been usefully challenged by seasoned journalist Atkinson Fellow Marie Wadden’s recent series which continues her research begun in 1978 in response to the hidden horrors of Canada’s Innu town, Davis Inlet. The True North strong and free has been limping for a long time.

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Neither Left nor Right, just wrong

Decades later, Wadden concerned about the elusive solutions for problems of addiction in Canadian Aboriginal continues her research by visiting remote communities to find stories that will unsettle Canadian complacent apathy, compassion fatigue and worldly-wise jaded perspectives. We just do not want to give up the adventure stories that inspired our youth of Arctic explorers in frozen, isolated, hinterland Hudson Bay posts. Perhaps her shocking series will shake our stubborn pryde in our grandfathers’ mythologies while shamefully neglecting tragic tales from our Other grandparents.
Her passion for the subject earned her the 2005 Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy and led her to a year-long, cross-country trek to look at the causes, effects and potential solutions to the addiction crisis among Aboriginals. Her series of stories — Tragedy or Triumph; Canadian Public Policy and Aboriginal Addictions — is appearing in the Star and online at thestar.com/atkinson. Wadden began her career at CBC television in Newfoundland 27 years ago and has won numerous journalism awards. The St. John’s resident is the 17th winner of the Atkinson Fellowship and the first from east of Montreal. The fellowship, sponsored by The Atkinson Charitable Foundation, the Toronto Star and the Beland Honderich family, aims to further liberal journalism in the tradition of Joseph E. Atkinson, the Star’s founder. The Atkinson Series, Tragedy or Triumph, Canadian Public Policy and Aboriginal Addictions

Seven years in a Third World military dictatorship did not prepare me for the harsh reality of the everyday lives of Canadian Inuit and First Nations. I felt shame, powerlessness and confusion stemming from years of work as insider in cultural institutions devoted to Inuit studies. It took me ten years to build heightened levels of trust so all the stories pored out. The more I learned and accepted without offering bandaid solutions, patent excuses, weak explanations or high-haded social theories, the more stories seemed to come to me. It was as if I had a pair of antennas, an open channel to a stream of unending stories each one corraborating the other. The more I learned the more I questioned so I paralleled the kitchen table accounts with deep research into footnotes of published materials, Hansards, and cross-disciplinary work. I asked more specific questions of Inuit elders and the knowers in communities. (The knowers were often Inuit women of any age who had been chosen to learn more because of their superior abilities to learn languages. Their emotional maturity, discretion and wisdom was daunting. Often stories were shared in whispers. I would never get permission to share them. Potent stories of individual personal strength, survival could not be shared because the surviving members of the perpetrators of violence and injustice were still alive. In small isolated hamlets there are systems of power in everyday life that are as imposing as those on parliament hill. This explains why a convicted sex offender can be chosen to represent a community (where family violence is extremely high — off the charts in terms of the Canadian average) in the political arena. In Third World countries there is always the hope that education and maturity, in civil society and democracy, might provide improved access to human rights for citizens. My despair, my overwhelming sense of hopelessness, became consuming as I realized that this tragedy was taking place in one of the more advanced democracies with a relatively informed civil society. I began to meticulously develop a detailed timeline of the social histories of First Nations, Inuit (and African-Canadians). I would take the stories shared by friends and students and cross-reference them with dates provided by classical ethnographers, anthropologists, art historians, museologists, geographers, geologists, administrators and Hudson Bay Company reports. I reread the entire series of Inuit Studies, Inuit Art Quarterly and realized that it was not bad research on my part that made me so shamefully unaware. The very cultural institutions on whom we depend for insight into our shared communal memories, these institutions have failed us miserably. They continue to perpetrate distorted histories insisting covertly on presenting a benign colonialism. Examine the brilliant RCAP, the most in-depth (and expensive) report, undertaken using a progressive research methodology called Participatory Action Research (PAR). It’s on-line and available for anyone! Read the section on how our institutions of public curricula were specifically called upon to reexamine distorted histories in collaboration with Inuit and First Nations communties. The do as I did and examine what these institutions have done since then. A tourist visiting Canada’s cultural institutions, either virtually or in glass, steel and stone buildings, such as the National Gallery of Canada or the Museum of Civilization, or exploring Cybermuse, will not learn of the depth of despair of First Nations and Inuit communties. They will leave perhaps learning something of the heroic status of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Inuit art cooperatives, the benefits to Inuit of entering the international art market, the exquisite aesthetics of Inuit clothing from the pre-1950s, Inuit legends shortened and deformed for consumer tastes. They will learn about the dynamic Inuit culture as if the best of the culture sank with the Nascopie. Explorers and Hudson Bay Company employees are heroized when their work should now be reviewed through the lens of the informed, intelligent generation born in the 1930s and 1940s. Remove the overt desire to portray colonialism in Canada’s north as benign, to continue to cherish histories of post WWII heroism of southerners who conquered the hinterland to benefit all Canadians. Challenge the assumptions that learning English, the market system and the northern form of Canadian democracy was beneficial in the long-run. Unsettle the assumption that the errors were in the past and we should all move on. The litany of mistakes outlined in this brilliant, moving, informed series can be complemented by a thorough reading of one of Canads’ most-difficult-to-read stories, Mistakes. Let’s ask the communal archives of memory for the answers to the questions about what really happened to Inuit-Scottish, Inuit-Danish and Inuit-Icelandic children abandoned in the 1930s, 1940, 1950s, 1960s by their fathers who returned south and built profitable careers on their heroism, adventures in Canada’s north while ignoring pleas from their former partners, and even own children abandoned to the care of small vulnerable hamlets. We no longer accept that the genetic pool of the Scottish, British, American, Danish and Icelandic improved Inuit and First Nations do we? How can we continue in 2006 to lionize those who felt pryde in their improvement of the gene pool? Is there no way that we can honour our blue eyed grandfathers without simply forgetting. We need serious, committed memory work on the level of what has been done in Post WWII Europe. The situations are in no way the same. But the revamping of our institutions of communal memory is just taking too long. In Post WWII Europe it became evident over the decades that it could not be ignored by national cultural institutions. In Canada it has been politically shrewd to use delaying tactics in our museums just as we have in land claims issues, and the dozens of other recommendations of the RCAP. Read the most recent articles by Canada’s anthropologist and you will find apologies for these institions arguing that great progress has been made. After al we do have an Algonquin canoe floating silently in the Group of Seven section of the National Gallery of Canada. Silently is the word. Speak to renowned Algonquin elder William Commanda and put his voice through a loud speaker in those galleries. Listen to him describe the starvation when tourism trade grew as southerners flocked north to enjoy the Canadian Shield. Hear his gentle, firm voice as he describes in elaborate detail how he built canoes to stave off starvation as the First Nations communities were denied access to their fishing camps which had become the land of the tourists. He speaks without rage. His voice is still powerfully spiritual. He calls for a freeing of the rivers from the damage of the dams. In the room devoted to Canadian art of the 1950s install a Stan Douglas type piece where the voices of Inuit and First Nations whose lives were irrevocably changed by the one of the worst incidence of TB on the planet speak of their grandfathers, camp leaders, fathers, the hunters, trappers and fishers buried in unmarked graves near Moose Factory’s sanitorium.

In the National Gallery of Canada’s Inuit Art section (in the basement) remind visitors that the artists whose works continue to be revered, have suffered starvation in Canada in the 1940s and 1950s, have succumbed to alcoholism, and drugs, that they have met violent deaths through suicides, murders, or in preventable house fires. How many Canadians know the other stories connected to Inuit women artists who made history when they were honoured with the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest award or the Royal Canadian Academy? One died alone in a hospital near Montreal in the 1980s, so depressed because of her linguistic isolation (she could only speak Inuktitut) that she gave away her ulu, the woman’s knife so affectionately mentioned in articles about Inuit art. Another was confused at one time when nortern officials refused food to her family during the peoriod of starvation in the 1950s. What about Canada’s most widely admired Inuit artist whose works are honoured internationally who was now ill, forced to live on city streets and was so badly beaten by police he carried a lump on his forehead for weeks. They and/or their families still live in houses where the entire contents of their fridges are a plastic bottle of ketchup and mustard. The have developed diabetes. A few have become violent and abusive. So many Inuit artists are in the Baffin Correction Centre at any given time that local people suggest a visit as part of the itinerary for Iqaluit, Nunavut’s art scene. Then let’s see some footage of the renowned Inuit elder and activist, as he describes through his son, artist and interpretor, his trip to New York or his interpretation of one of his carvings. Let’s hear him sing with tears in his eyes, the song he wrote for the homeless man on the streets of New York. Where is the strong articulate voice of Sheila Watt-Cloutier in any contemporary site claiming to represent to Inuit culture? If you do not know this name you should. She has made history. What about Paul Okalik, Peter Erniq. These are names all Canadians should know. Let’s begin with something simple: honest, inclusive timelines. Let’s contextualize stories about Inuit culture. Stop funding Inuit studies unless there is a critical component that examines issues, not as tidy sanitized disciplines that claim to be protecting Inuit art and culture from the sordid truths of everyday life. Inuit art and culture are dynamic, alive, robust. The Inuit art and culture market will survive but perhaps not by continuing to enrich southerers or those who live decades in the north, return to the south and continue to become enriched on their insider knowledge. If Inuit benefited fully from their own art production in a sustainable, equitable fashion there would be far less need of so much government intervention. There is more percapita talent in the tiny hamlet of Clyde River waiting for a venue than there is many southern cities. There is also far more youth suicide, violence against women and despair.

Footnotes:

The private Atkinson Foundation, founded in 1942 by former publisher of The Toronto Star, promotes social and economic justice in the tradition Joseph E. Atkinson. This includes the work of Armine Yalnizyan, (2000), “Inequality Rises As More Families Slide To The Bottom Of The Income Scale: Tax cuts don’t address economic reality says new report,” Centre of Social Justice, January 27, 2000 http://www.atkinsonfoundation.ca/publications/The_Great_Divide_Armine_
Yallnizyan.htm

Brazzaville’s, (la republique populaire du Congo) namesake is honoured with a marble statue. His relationship with the Congolese was unlike that of the empire builders who had carved up the African continent in the late 1800s, established concessionaires (similar to the Britain‘s HBC in Canada) plundering resources and manpower while enriching Europe.

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In Loango, R. P. Congo (also known as Congo-Brazzaville) not far from the Catholic mission, where you could still buy fresh eggs in the 1980s, is a post which is a reminder of the millions of Africans who passed by this spot. This is where they were attached before being shipped as human cargo. From the post you can see the hills with rows of trees like endless lines of people remembering, not forgetting.

A selected timeline of social history of Congo-Brazzaville

1954 The last king of the Congo built his castle at Diosso, near Pointe-Noire, now in the R. P. Congo. King Mwe Pwati III died in 1975.

1956 Césaire wrote “La Lettre à Maurice Thorez” (Letter to the Secretary General of the Communist Party) in which he broke with the Communist Party. Césaire believed he could develop a distinctly African socialism.

relationship with the Congolese was unlike that of the empire builders who had carved up the African continent in the late 1800s, established concessionaires (similar to the Britain’s HBC in Canada) plundering resources and manpower while enriching Europe.

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In Loango, R. P. Congo (also known as Congo-Brazzaville) not far from the Catholic mission, where you could still buy fresh eggs in the 1980s, is a post which is a reminder of the millions of Africans who passed by this spot. This is where they were attached before being shipped as human cargo. From the post you can see the hills with rows of trees like endless lines of people remembering, not forgetting.
A selected timeline of social history of Congo-Brazzaville

First inhabited by pygmies, the Congo was later settled by Bantu groups who also occupied parts of present-day Angola, Gabon, and the DRC. Several Bantu kingdoms, notably those of the Kongo, the Loango, and the Teke, built trade links along the Congo River basin. The first European contacts came in the late 15th century, and commercial relationships were quickly established with the kingdoms, trading for slaves captured in the interior. The coastal area was a major source for the transatlantic slave trade, and when that commerce ended in the early 19th century, the power of the Bantu kingdoms eroded. (ediplomat 2005)

A selected timeline of social history of Congo-Brazzaville

First inhabited by pygmies, the Congo was later settled by Bantu groups who also occupied parts of present-day Angola, Gabon, and the DRC. Several Bantu kingdoms, notably those of the Kongo, the Loango, and the Teke, built trade links along the Congo River basin. The first European contacts came in the late 15th century, and commercial relationships were quickly established with the kingdoms, trading for slaves captured in the interior. The coastal area was a major source for the transatlantic slave trade, and when that commerce ended in the early 19th century, the power of the Bantu kingdoms eroded. (ediplomat 2005)

1880s The area now known as Congo-Brazzaville came under French sovereignty .

Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, an empire builder for France, competed with agents of Belgian King Leopold’s International Congo Association (later Zaire) for control of the Congo River basin (ediplomat 2005).

1882 – 1891 France secured treaties were secured with all the main local rulers on the Congo river’s right bank. This laid the path for France to control the natural and human resources of the Congo.

1898-1930 France allowed private companies (Grandes Companies Concessionaires) to extract natural resources from Congo-Brazzaville in this period of private companies similar to the Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada. Due to public protests over the loss of tens of thousands of Congolese working for The Société de construction des Batignolles French artists including Andre Gide were influential in ending the monopoly of these private companies.

1908 France organized French Equatorial African (AEF), which comprised the colonies of Middle Congo (modern Congo), Gabon, Chad, and Oubangui-Chari (modern Central African Republic). Brazzaville was selected as the Federal capital.

1924–34 A private company under the protection of France, The Société de construction des Batignolles, built the Chemin de Fer Congo Ocean (CFCO) at a considerable human cost (over 20, 000 lives).

1927 Andre Gide published Voyage au Congo in which he criticised the French colonial administration for the loss of human lives during the construction of the Chemin de Fer Congo Ocean (1921-1934). Andre Gide described the CFCO as a “fearsome devourer of human lives.”

1928 French forces had to intervene to suppress a workers’ uprising. Up to 20,000 Africans died during the construction of the CFCO .

1940-3 French Equatorial African (AEF), (Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Chad, Central African Republic) supported General Charles de Gaulle and provided a safe haven of him during the period when France was occupied by the Germans. Brazzaville was the capital of la France libre. The international process of decolonization traces its roots to de Gaulle’s debt to Brazzaville. Colonial empires saw their constituent nations demanding independence.

1944 The Brazzaville Conference of 1944 heralded a period of major reform in French colonial policy, including the abolition of forced labor, granting of French citizenship to colonial subjects, decentralization of certain powers, and election of local advisory assemblies.

1950 postcolonial movement. See De Gaulle in Brazzaville, capital of the France libre.

1880s The area now known as Congo-Brazzaville came under French sovereignty .

Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, an empire builder for France, competed with agents of Belgian King Leopold’s International Congo Association (later Zaire) for control of the Congo River basin (ediplomat 2005).

1882 – 1891 France secured treaties were secured with all the main local rulers on the Congo river’s right bank. This laid the path for France to control the natural and human resources of the Congo.

1898-1930 France allowed private companies (Grandes Companies Concessionaires) to extract natural resources from Congo-Brazzaville in this period of private companies similar to the Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada. Due to public protests over the loss of tens of thousands of Congolese working for The Société de construction des Batignolles French artists including Andre Gide were influential in ending the monopoly of these private companies.

1908 France organized French Equatorial African (AEF), which comprised the colonies of Middle Congo (modern Congo), Gabon, Chad, and Oubangui-Chari (modern Central African Republic). Brazzaville was selected as the Federal capital.

1924–34 A private company under the protection of France, The Société de construction des Batignolles, built the Chemin de Fer Congo Ocean (CFCO) at a considerable human cost (over 20, 000 lives).

1927 Andre Gide published Voyage au Congo in which he criticised the French colonial administration for the loss of human lives during the construction of the Chemin de Fer Congo Ocean (1921-1934). Andre Gide described the CFCO as a “fearsome devourer of human lives.”

1928 French forces had to intervene to suppress a workers’ uprising. Up to 20,000 Africans died during the construction of the CFCO .

1940-3 French Equatorial African (AEF), (Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Chad, Central African Republic) supported General Charles de Gaulle and provided a safe haven of him during the period when France was occupied by the Germans. Brazzaville was the capital of la France libre. The international process of decolonization traces its roots to de Gaulle’s debt to Brazzaville. Colonial empires saw their constituent nations demanding independence.

1944 The Brazzaville Conference of 1944 heralded a period of major reform in French colonial policy, including the abolition of forced labor, granting of French citizenship to colonial subjects, decentralization of certain powers, and election of local advisory assemblies.

1950 postcolonial movement. See De Gaulle in Brazzaville, capital of the France libre.

1951 The Ecole de Peinture de Poto-Poto emerged in Brazzaville, Congo where artists began to produce paintings described by critics with the unflattering term the ‘Mickeys.’ The black figures they painted resembled the characters in Walt Disney movies.

1956 The Loi Cadre (Framework Law) of 1956 ended dual voting roles and provided for partial self-government for the individual overseas territories. Colonial administration expanded particularly in Congo-Brazzaville, the capital of the French Equatorial African (AEF). Administrative buildings were constructed and French colonial infrastructure grew.

1958 French President de Gaulle returned to Africa and declared, “L’independence, quiconque la voudra pourra la prendre aussitot.”

1960 Decolonisation of Africa began and the criticism of la Négritude began. Congo-Brazzaville was the first African country to gain independence. Political leaders of newly liberated African countries during the postcolonial period accepted modernist development policies that stressed economic growth.

1960 The first President of the newly independent Congo Republic was a former Catholic priest, Fulbert Youlou. The AEF was dissolved in 1958 and its four territories became autonomous members of the French community, and Middle Congo was renamed the Congo Republic. Formal independence was granted to the new country in August 1960. With the exception of Senegal, no country in Africa had a more developed educational system at the time of independence than the Congo.

1963 President Fulbert Youlou was overthrown in a 3-day popular uprising (Les Trois Glorieuses) led by labor elements and joined by rival political parties.

1967-1977 Marion Ngouabi was the President of the R. P. Congo the first African country to adhere to communism. He advocated a scientific socialism. He was assassinated in 1977 and is considered to be a martyr by many Congolese.

1968 Aimé Césaire began to focus on theatre in the 1960s in an effort to reach more people. His plays such as La Tragédie du Roi Christophe (1963), Une Saison au Congo and Une Tempête (1968 ) were more political than his earlier work. He argued that words used creatively could change the world Une Tempête was an original adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

1968 Major Ngouabi assumed the presidency on December 31, 1968 after he and other army officers toppled the government in a coup. One year later President Ngouabi proclaimed the Congo to be Africa’s first “people’s republic” and announced the decision of the National Revolutionary Movement to change its name to the Congolese Labor Party (PCT).

1967-1977 Marion Ngouabi, President of the R. P. Congo the first African country to adhere to communism, a scientific socialism. He was assassinated and is is considered to be a martyr by many Congolese.

1976 The number of refugees in the world was 2.7 million (Doctors Without Borders (MSF) .

1979 Colonel Denis Sassou-Nguesso first became interim President after the assassination of both President Ngouabi and Archbishop Biayenda. Both murders have never been solved. Denis Sassou-Nguesso continued as President until 1991.

1980s United States raised interest rates on national and foreign debt to protect its own economy. The US economy had supposedly suffered because of instabilities in the price of oil. Countries — like Congo-Brazzaville, one of the most heavily indebted countries per capita in the world, found themselves constrained by unmanageable payments of raised interest rates. With its economy paralyzed by the debt burden, Congo like Brazil and many other developing nations were forced to go to the International Monetary Fund for emergency funds. The government has negotiated an Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF insisted on deep, drastic cuts into basic social services, such as health and education, as a condition of the emergency loans. Structural reform conditions also include civil service downsizing, customs and tax reforms, and measures to promote private sector development. Currently the Congo is working hard to meet its obligations to the IMF concerning transparency in the oil sector. Congo-Brazzaville still struggles to qualify for Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) status. French oil company Elf Congo, the Italian oil company AGIP along with Americans made enormous profits during the petroleum boom years in the Congo.

1989 The fall of the Berlin Wall.

1991 Congo’s National Conference called for a multiparty democracy ending the one-party Marxist rule.

1992 Sassou-Nguesso conceded defeat to Professor Pascal Lissouba after multiparty presidential elections.

1993 Nearly a million acres of land in the north of the Republic of Congo became Nouabale-Ndoki National Park—one of the most significant tropical forest preserves in the world.

Structural reform efforts include civil service downsizing, customs and tax reforms, and measures to promote private sector development. The government has negotiated an Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Currently the Congo is working hard to meet its obligations to the IMF concerning transparency in the oil sector. It is also working to qualify for HIPC status.

1996 The number of refugees in the world was 2.7 million Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

1997 President Lissouba used private militia to attack the private militia of former President Sassou in a pre-emptive strike setting off a a highly destructive Civil War. With the support of the Angolan army Sassou was victorious.

1998 In Brazzaville, La republique populaire du Congo rebel fighting between rebel forces and the military-style government army has generated massive and blind atrocities against civilian populations. The resulting widespread violence perpetrated by the parties at war affects the entire civilian population. Arbitrary executions, mutilations, rapes, and disappearances illustrate the arbitrary character of the violence perpetrated against the civilians. In December 1998, more than 250,000 people fled to Brazzzaville because of the fighting, to seek refuge in the tropical forests of the “Pool,” a region south of the city. However, they found themselves caught up in the middle of the fighting, de facto hostages of the “Ninjas” ( the rebel militias). Victims of indiscriminate violence, they have had no access to food or medical care, and could not benefit from any exterior help. Furthermore, the ones who survived and managed to come back to Brazzaville are now the victims of indiscriminate attacks from the government army and militias (the “Cobras”). Doctors Without Borders (MSF), (1999), “Congo Brazzaville: Chronicle of a Forgotten War,” A Special Doctors Without Borders Report, October.

1999 Doctors Without Borders (MSF) witnessed tens of thousands of starving civilians returning to the Brazzaville, La republique populaire du Congo, exhausted after several months spent wandering in the forest. Refugees in Congo-Brazzaville were facing an unprecedented nutritional and medical crisis. No party in the conflict had taken significant steps to prevent the violence against civilians. This lack of action clearly shows their indifference to the fate of the civilian population. Given the gravity of the situation, the silence and indifference of the international community is unbearable. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) volunteers have been present in Brazzaville since April 1999, implementing medical and nutritional programs. Doctors Without Borders (MSF), (1999), “Congo Brazzaville: Chronicle of a Forgotten War” A Special Doctors Without Borders Report, October.

2001 Embassy operations were resumed in 2001, though American staff continue to be assigned officially to Kinshasa and travel to Brazzaville on temporary duty (TDY).

2003 A peace accord was signed with rebel armed forces, called the “Ninjas” based in the Pool region, just west of Brazzaville, and the situation was described by the diplomatic community as calm.

2004 David Morley of Médecins Sans Frontières, Canada wrote this disturbing description of the forgotten Congolese in his “Letters from the field”. Contrast this with the diplomatic report

2005 This report intended for US diplomats planning on work in Brazzaville, Congo was posted as an ediplomat Report.

2006 The World Bank Group posted this press release on August 22, 2006 Congo-Brazzaville: A sensitization campaign brings together parliamentarians and local communities

In the Republic of Congo, the first phase of the sensitization campaign for the upcoming National Program for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (PNDDR) will soon be complete. Conducted through a series of conferences and debates, the campaign has aimed to increase the knowledge of the program among the government, civil society and the people of Congo. The PNDDR, once it starts, will aim to reintegrate an estimated 30,000 ex-combatants with the support of the Multi-Country Demobilization and Reintegration Program (MDRP).

Selected Bibliography

Brown, ‘Testing the Boundaries’ pp. 62-4 39

Coquerie-Vidrovitch, C., 1972. Le Congo au Temps des Grandes Companies Concessionaires 1898-1930, Mouton, Paris.

ediplomat. 2005 “Congo – Brazzaville The Host Country,” Post Reports ediplomat Report, http://www.ediplomat.com/np/post_reports/pr_cg.htm

Gide, Andre. 1927 Voyage au Congo

Gide, Andre. 1962. Travels in the Congo, University of California Press. Berkeley.

Hochschild, Adam. 1999. King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa, Houghton and Mifflin: Boston.

Morley, David. 2004. “Letters from the field,” International Herald Tribune, February 13, 2004.

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